Category Archives: Yours by Design

FREE Understanding Elizabeth

My latest novel, Understanding Elizabeth, is on Book Bub today!

I have never been good at keeping my feelings to myself, so I’m going to FREELY admit that I’m VERY excited about being on Book Bub. I tried years ago to promote my books with them, but I wasn’t accepted. For me, this is a milestone.


The giveaway is for Amazon Kindle only, but if you don’t own a Kindle, that’s not a problem. I downloaded the Kindle app for FREE to my phone. Now I have several thousand books at my disposal wherever I am.


Stuck standing in line? I whip out my phone, go to the app, and read. Waiting at the doctor’s office? I actually like it. Stuck in traffic? It doesn’t bother me.

And – because I love you all so much, and I’m just that kind of person (Ha!) – I’ve lowered the prices of ALL of my books to $1.99 for the two day sale. Even A Very Austen Christmas is $1.99 for two days!


So, hurry over to Amazon and download some enjoyment for those times you’re sitting somewhere bored to death. You won’t regret it.

Here’s a little secret: If you already have the book, you can “gift” it to a friend for FREE!


Praise for the Yours By Design series

my-top-5-modern-ppKudos to our own Robin Helm. Her Yours By Design series made Of Pens and Pages’ Top 5 List. Hooray!

“I loved reading the entire series,” says Nissa, “and each book was quite the page-turner.”

We agree! Autumn’s crisp evenings and shorter days usher in perfect reading weather. Why not curl up with Robin’s books?

GIVEAWAY ALERT! Nissa is offering the entire series to one lucky winner! Here is your chance to enjoy Robin’s novels as e-books. Visit  Of Pens and Pages  for details.



God has been very good to us.

During the past couple of weeks, I’ve been thinking back over the events of 2015 and marveling at all the big things that happened in my life during one short year.

Forever Yours  cover cropped


I finished writing my Yours by Design series by publishing Forever Yours at the beginning of April.

With a wedding coming at the end of June, I lived my spring and summer in overdrive – trimming shrubbery, replacing old bedding around the plants, painting the front porch and porch furniture, thoroughly cleaning the back porch, repotting old plants and buying new ones, and attending three bridal showers. Mel and I also had to contact each vendor again to finalize the flowers, DJ, reception venue, catering, cake, musicians, technicians, and photography. We also met the photographer for her bridal portraits and sat down with the wedding director. We compiled guest lists and sent out save the dates and invitations which she designed online. There were centerpieces to make, a wedding dress to buy (five shops before we found THE ONE) and have altered, favors to order, a candy bar to stock, a wedding portrait to choose, a church to decorate, and a rehearsal to plan. Mel’s identity was stolen during that time, too, and that certainly spiked the stress level.



My elder daughter, who was expecting our second granddaughter, and our year-old granddaughter returned from Japan two weeks before the wedding, and we planned a short outing to the beach. Said outing was ditched when Mel’s dog, Chloe, ran away. God answered our prayers and we found her twelve hours later, with the help of a network of friends and folks we didn’t know. Mel and I picked up a multitude of chigger bites on our legs and feet while scouring the woods for her dog, but hers went away before the wedding, much thanks to our friend, Dr. Ed Sizemore.

Chloe 189.JPG

The wedding and reception were beautiful, though there was a high probability of heavy rain and thunderstorms. The wedding was held at our church, but the reception was outdoors at The Ivy Place. Again, we prayed. The rains held off until the last guest left the reception, and then the heavens opened. At the last minute, I had ordered a second tent. That was a good thing, because everything had to be cleaned up in that downpour. Had it not been for the help of Gayle and her daughter Bethany’s family, I might have sat in a puddle and cried.

Two weeks later, my pregnant elder daughter and granddaughter returned to Japan. You may remember the computer problems experienced by Wall Street and United Airlines last summer. They were caught in that, and it turned a thirty hour trip into a fifty hour trip. Somehow, she managed, just as she always does. Prayer, prayer, and more prayer.

Mandy & Charlie

Mel returned to live with us during August while her new husband went through football camp with the 49ers in California. She and I raced around to have her name changed everywhere and her car title transferred to her name. Government offices in August! Woohoo! At the end of August, we helped her pack her things, ship her car and clothes, and move to join him. There was much more involved, but it’s too long a story.

In September and October, I designed new covers for the three books in The Guardian Trilogy, and I updated the book files.

In November, our dog Toby ran away.  Again we prayed, and three weeks later, I received a phone call from a lady who had seen the ad in the paper. We were overjoyed to get him back.

Near the end of November, Mel’s husband was moved from the practice squad to the active roster of the 49ers – another answer to prayer.

Mandy, Charlie, Scarlett

We received our best gift and our biggest answer to prayer on December 8 when our elder daughter safely delivered our second beautiful granddaughter.

In the immortal words of Jane Austen’s Mrs. Bennet during the 1995 BBC miniseries of Pride and Prejudice, “God has been very good to us.”

Indeed, He has.

What I Have Done and Learned

4 H emblemThat title cracks me up. It was the name of the workbook we had to finish every year for 4-H Club in elementary school. My sisters and I used to laugh about it. I’m sure the wonderful 4-H people weren’t think of native rural Southern dialect. At least I hope not. “I’ve done gone and learned this!” “She’s done gone and got hitched!” “He’s done and learned how to play the geetar!”

But I digress. (How trite!)

I really have learned a great deal in the past two weeks. I always knew that nothing promotes an author’s books like writing another book, but I have actually proven it to myself. When I published Forever Yours, Yours by Design, Book 3, the other books in the series began to sell again. I’ve already started writing a new series which I hope to publish at the end of the summer.

I’ve also learned that having great betas (editors) is very important. People like the story, but many of them comment specifically on how well the books are edited. Readers are distracted by mechanical and grammatical errors, plot deviations, over-exposition, and stiff dialog. They want limited narrative sections and more interaction between the characters. They don’t like stumbling over extra words carelessly left in a passage after the author has edited.

book banner

Better covers attract more readers. With the advent of smart phones and Kindle Fire, even e-book readers get that cover, and a great cover just jumps out of that library. I like color and drama – in book covers. Not so much in life.

Which series would you buy? This set which doesn’t match?

Or would you prefer this set which does?Accidentally Yours kindle cover

Pricing is a great big hairy deal. I don’t pay more than $5.00 for an e-book (unless it’s a runaway best seller), so I don’t charge more than $4.99. As an indie author, I can’t control the price of my print books. I make the books cost as little as I can, and I put them in the Kindle Match program.

Sincerely Yours, KDP coverForever Yours, KindleIf the reader buys a print copy, she gets a Kindle copy free. To me, that’s fair. People have gotten away from having shelves full of books. Open concept modern design is all the rage, and stacks of dusty books don’t fit into that design scheme. I view it as a great compliment readers buy a print copy of my book. They are allowing my work to take up precious space in their homes.

Good formatting is essential. I don’t like to read books in which the font types and sizes are all over the place. I stopped reading a book that I really liked because the font was so huge it was distracting, even when I adjusted it as much as I could in my smartphone. There are also tricks regarding ellipses and dashes which indie authors (and traditional publishers) should learn and use so that there aren’t big chunks of space at the ends of lines. The look should be uniform throughout all the books of a series. I made those mistakes on my first series (The Guardian Trilogy) but corrected them in my second (Yours by Design). One day I’ll go back to The Guardian Trilogy, do new covers, and reformat, but that will have to wait.

I accept that there will be people who don’t like my work. I accept that some of those people will give me bad, even unfair and cruel, reviews. Most of those people have never written a book, and they have no idea how difficult it is. I’m a freight train, and I refuse to let those people derail me.

In writing, sure and steady wins the race. I’m not the type of writer who can churn out a book every two months. That saps my creativity. However, I rarely take a break from writing. I write, edit, rewrite, edit, and continue the cycle until I have something I would enjoy reading myself.

If you are a fledgling writer, hang in there. In the words of Sir Winston Churchill: “Never, never, never give up.”

Incidentally, don’t forget to enter the Forever Yours giveaway!

No one mold to break

Photo: Heather Katsoulis (Creative Commons Flickr)

Photo: Heather Katsoulis (Creative Commons Flickr)

I myself was always recognized, though quite kindly, as ‘the slow one’ of the family. The reactions of my mother and my sister were unusually quick—I could never keep up. I was, too, very inarticulate. It was always difficult for me to assemble into words what I wanted to say….It is probably one of the causes that have made me a writer.

Agatha Christie

How I smiled when I discovered this quotation. Agatha Christie, shy? Inarticulate, even? But she was one of the best-selling authors of all time. She was anything but ‘slow.’

In this busy social media age, when an author is supposed to tweet and blog and be everywhere and all that (for one must be building a platform), how refreshing it is to remember that there is no one mold to break.

As we’ve been celebrating Robin Helm’s release of Forever Yours, I’ve been thinking about how variety is an excellent thing, both in friendship and in reading.

A blessed companion is a book, a book that, fitly chosen, is a lifelong friend…
a book that, at a touch, pours its heart into our own.

Douglas Jerrold

Every writer has obstacles to overcome. Christie has given me countless hours of reading pleasure, and her books are like friends. How thankful I am that, like so many of us, she had financial needs. And that she was able to get past feeling ‘inarticulate’ and write that first book. And the next, and the next.

Except a living man there is nothing more wonderful than a book!
A message to us from the dead, from human souls whom we never saw,
who lived perhaps thousands of miles away; and yet these,
on those little sheets of paper, speak to us, teach us, comfort us,
open their hearts to us as brothers.

Charles Kingsley

Speaking of books, don’t miss Robin’s book giveaway. To enter, simply post a comment here before May 11, 2015.

And she kept writing…

“Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

~ Inscription, New York City Post Office, adapted from Herodotus

Forever Yours Kindle

This week we’re celebrating Robin Helm’s release of the final book in her Yours By Design trilogy. To finish a series is a tremendous accomplishment. That’s three books in less than two years.

“Good. Now I can die.” That’s what I said when I finished writing the last Mercy’s Embrace book after what, eight summers? There is pressure on the writer of a series, oh yes.

Robin will not tell you, but Real Life did not exactly stop while Good Darcy and Evil Darcy came to life on the page.

  • Her eldest daughter married, left the service, moved to Japan, and a year later gave birth to an adorable granddaughter. Robin took ‘the trip of a lifetime’ to visit. And she kept writing.
  • Robin had five (that’s 5) part-time jobs. (Now I think she has only four.) Talk about keeping the musician and teacher plates spinning! And she kept writing.
  • She survived a massive clutter purge at home, the retrofitting of the upstairs apartment for her younger daughter, and new flooring throughout her house. And she kept writing.
  • Together with Gayle Mills and Stephanie Hamm, she helped plan, launch, and maintain the free fiction site Beyond Austen. And she kept writing.
  • At summer’s end Robin and her younger daughter (then newly-engaged) planned the wedding down to every detail. And she kept writing.
  • Football entered her life. Did she miss even one home game when her future son-in-law was playing? I don’t think so. And she kept writing.
  • Her beloved brother became ill and went home to be with the Lord. Another of her sisters is courageously battling cancer. Robin was (and is) there for them. Her sorrow is not without hope, but there is grief. And she kept writing.
  • She kept writing, even while designing the covers herself, working with beta readers and editors, and treading the labyrinth of print and ebook formatting. She. kept. writing.

“Writing a book is an endurance contest, and a war fought against yourself, because writing is beastly hard work which one would just as soon not do. It’s also a job, however, and if you want to get paid, you have to work. Life is cruel that way.”

~ Tom Clancy

Too often my own writing work is stalled by the demands of Real Life, so to see Robin’s accomplishment makes me want to stand and cheer. An endurance contest indeed. Well done, my friend, well done.

To celebrate, we’re hosting a book giveaway here at Jane Started It.To enter, simply post a comment here by May 11, 2015.

Robin isn’t content to rest on her laurels. So she’s published six books in a span of 15 months, what of it? She’s already at work outlining her next series, a young adult trilogy called Prodigy. Go, Robin!

Forever Yours Book Launch and Giveaway

Every author can identify with the joy I feel in announcing the publication of Forever Yours, Yours by Design, Book 3. I’m particularly happy about Forever Yours, because it signals the end of a two year writing project and the completion of the Yours by Design series. The other books in the series, Accidentally Yours and Sincerely Yours, were published in 2014. (See! I told you I would finish it!)

Forever Yours Kindle

Forever Yours is available on Amazon in Kindle format. The print version is also available HERE. The print and Kindle versions will be linked in a day or two.

I have just downloaded the Smashwords and Nook files for you readers who use those particular devices.

Prodigy crop

My younger daughter will marry in June, so I’m quite busy at the moment, but I am going to start a rewrite of The Guardian Trilogy this week. It will be a non-Austen, YA, strong first person variation of The Guardian Trilogy. Look for The Xander Chronicles fairly soon if you enjoy YA paranormal romance. I plan to add multiple scenes and delete others. My approach to the story will be very different. If it is successful, watch for spin-off books featuring other characters and their back stories.

I will continue to write Austen variations, as well.

And now for the giveaway information. If you’d like to enter to win a copy of Forever Yours, comment on this thread, publicize the book on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other social media. You may enter as many times as you like, but you’ll have to let me know each time you do so. The U.S. winner can choose either an autographed print copy or an e-book, and the international winner will receive a Kindle copy. Please indicate whether you are U.S. or international in your reply.

The giveaway will end on Monday, May 11, and may the odds be ever in your favor!